Every year, the Penn Glee Club embarks on a two–week summer tour, performing stand–and–sing sets (sets without dance numbers) with choirs across the globe. For their 2019 adventure, the Glee Club set out to East Asia on their “The Cities that Never Sleep Tour,” performing in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei and Tokyo—staying true to their legacy of international excellence.
Sam Orlin (C ’19), Glee Club Business Manager, planned everything from finding the locations, to making sure that each member on the May 2019 tour went through a cultural acclimation process. Sam started planning as early as June 2018. He looked at the budget and brainstormed itineraries. He said that his goal was to make the tour as accessible to members as possible. According to Sam, the tour would not have been possible without overseas support—primarily from Penn alumni and local university organizations.
For many Glee Club members, the international tour was their first time traveling, and several expressed fear of being overwhelmed or experiencing culture shock. So, they took the necessary steps to prepare beforehand.
First, each member went through a personalized travel consultation through Student Health Services, where nurse Liz Manai educated students about the health situation in each country and provided a medication and health consultation for each Glee Club member.
Members also attended a Penn Global international travel orientation where they learned safe travel protocol. Lastly, Glee hosted their own tour briefing presentation.
The first concert was a collaboration with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Women’s Choir on May 23. Despite the quick turnaround time and the inevitable jet lag, members agreed that the concert went well.
Penn Glee Club’s goals were not only to form closer bonds among its members, but also to engage with its global alumni. The next concerts in Hong Kong were a collaboration with the Diocesan Boys' School Choir and a band gig at the Fringe Underground Club—courtesy of a Penn alumnus with personal connections.
However, the tour wasn’t all business. Glee Club members took advantage of their free time—they explored, ate street food, and went on boat tours. Some highlights included shopping at the Ladies’ Market, hiking to Victoria Peak, high tea, visiting the Hong Kong Museum of History, and swimming in the Shek O Beach.
The next stop was the Glee Club’s first ever trip to Macau. They performed with the University of Macau Choir at their Student Activity Center Theater. Following their performance, several members over 21 let loose at the Venetian—the world’s largest casino.
Then, the Glee Club jetted off to Taipei, where the male choir performed with the National Cheng Kung University Alumni Choir. This event marked a special occasion—celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act that defined the relationship between the US and Taiwan. In Taipei, Glee members made sure to visit Taipei 101, which held the world record for tallest building from 2004 to 2009. Then, they were hosted by the Penn Club of Taiwan for a fancy dinner and another performance.
Their tour of Asia culminated with two performances in Tokyo—arranged with the help of Junichi Endo, President of the Wharton Club of Japan. On their first day in Tokyo, they performed three sets at the Nissan Global Headquarters.
Then, members joined singers in the International Christian University Glee Club at the ICU Chapel for the first time in history to perform an unforgettable repertoire in front of a packed audience. The last performance of tour was with both the Waseda University Glee Club and Wagner Society Male Chorus.
Tomoki Tashiro (C ’22), when asked of his experience, said he would “never forget the strong friendships he made with upperclassmen and his fellow [class members]” and would “forever cherish the opportunity to perform on a global stage in such unforgettable venues.”